A University of Toronto science student is experimenting with a new take on the traditional lab coat—and coming up with some seriously positive results.
Think about it. When you walk into a university book store looking for a lab coat, what do you see? Racks on racks on racks of the classic white coat in the same ill-fitting shape that scientists have been sporting for decades.
“People have this perception that lab coats are white, they’re always white, and it doesn’t have to look good, it just has to be there to protect their clothing,” says Alex Schmidt, the chief technical officer of Modadoro, a startup bringing style and science together.
Modadoro, named after the Italian phrase moda d’oro which translates to “fashion gold,” adds a pop of colour to STEM fields with its line of fitted lab coats, available in colours such as pink, navy blue, grey and the classic white, with sizes ranging from extra small to large. For the 2017-2018 academic year, they are working on also offering a line of men’s lab coats.
Liu Zhang, the company’s 29-year-old CEO, says she wanted to create looks that would break up the monotony of science’s unofficial monochrome uniform.
“Lab coats don’t need to be white, unless you’re planning to bleach them every week. They don’t need to be one-size-fits-all, unless we start cloning and standardizing young aspiring scientists genetically,” the company writes on their website.
Modadoro’s upgrade to the traditional lab coat, which started selling at the University of Toronto bookstore and online last fall, is not just about fashion, but function as well. Schmidt explains that all of the company’s coats are 100-percent cotton, a requirement in chemistry labs because polyester blends can adhere to skin if they catch on fire.
“I want people to see lab coats as a fun thing. It’s not just to protect your clothes, but also a tool to express yourself,” says Zhang, who is currently completing her PhD in cellular biology at the University of Toronto.
Zhang was inspired to start the line when one of her research colleagues told her about his black lab coat. He had it tailored overseas and found it often became a conversation piece, contrasting the sea of white coats in his undergraduate science classes. Zhang explored the idea initially as part of a class at the University of Toronto and made the first 50 garments at a Hack’N’Talk event for fashion-inspired innovation. Modadoro now take orders from all over the world.
In all her years in science, Zhang grew tired of seeing that classic cut white lab coat. Now, she wears a different colour each day. She finds looking good makes her feel good—and she hopes the coats can do the same for others.
“I want people to think, ‘Wow, this makes me proud of being a scientist,’” says Zhang.